Review: ‘Cocaine Bear’ disappoints audiences by switching tones

“Cocaine Bear” MVP goes to the CGI bear created by WetaFX for the most interesting scenes in the new movie.

Editor’s Note: This review is spoiler-free

Elizabeth Banks’ new film, “Cocaine Bear” is a glorified Reddit post that has finally seen its big day on theater screens. This film follows the real-life events of Andrew Thornton, a drug dealer who dumped bags of cocaine out of a plane into the Chattahoochee National Forest back in 1985. Detectives found some of the cocaine next to a bear that had eaten it and died. The plot of this movie revolves around a simple question: What would happen if a bear ingested cocaine and … survived, at least for long enough to start mauling people?  

This film has a few positive things going for it, one of which is the titular, computer-generated bear. Created by WetaFX, a digital effect company known for projects like “Avatar” and some of the “Avengers” movies, the bear in this movie looks surprisingly good – especially when you consider that the film only had $30 million to work with. Unfortunately, this cost cap seems to have hurt the chances of the bear being in more scenes. It’s a shame, because scenes involving the bear are far more compelling than the human characters.  

Indeed, the human characters is where the film fails. Each and every scene with the characters felt boring and unmotivated. There seemed to be no real reason to root or care about their relationships. In the film’s funny moments, momentum would be abruptly halted by flat and unseuccessful attempts to prolong the humor. Eventually, everyone resorted to screaming either “Run!” or “Bear!” which got tiring after repeatedly hearing it with the same inflection and response. It’s hard to tell whether the film’s monotony is a product of the dull script or the underserved actrors. Thankfully though, the cast didn’t take themselves too seriously, because if they did, the film would have been a total mess.  

After watching the first trailer and seeing the poster, I had high hopes that this would be another mid-tier movie that didn’t take itself seriously and was just made for fun, similar to something like “Sharknado.” Unfortunately, the writers seemed to be at odds tonally — the movie swings back and forth from a cheesy, gory romp to an emotionally-driven character study. I wish they would have sat down and focused on one or the other – preferably the former.  

I had fun with this movie, but there is no reason to see it more than once. This could turn into a cult classic for some like “Halloween” or the previously mentioned “Sharknado,” but there isn’t much more that this film adds to the genre that previous movies haven’t already done with higher success. If you do see “Cocaine Bear,” I would recommend doing so with a group of friends or family. The bigger the crowd to react to, the more fun it seems to be.